Despite controversy, the 95th Academy Awards contained record-breaking wins for creatives of color

By Siobhan Elizabeth Ball

Elm Staff Writer

The 95th Academy Awards, which premiered on March 12, 2023, were a night to remember.

The ceremony had a number of landmark achievements; “Naatu Naatu” was the first Indian film song to win best music, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” broke the record for most above-the-line Oscars, including best picture, and Ruth E. Carter is now the first Black woman to have two Oscars.

If you missed any of the glitz and glamor, look no further — here is the rundown of the momentous night. 

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” dominated the show, taking home seven awards, including best picture, best actor in a supporting role, best actress in a leading role, best actress in a supporting role, best directing, best editing, and best original screenplay. 

The movie is a triumph for the independent distribution company A24, who previously received a best picture win with their film “Moonlight” in 2017. 

Michelle Yeoh is the first Asian American woman to receive the Oscar for best actress, winning for her performance as Evelyn Wang, a mother who emigrated from China and runs a laundromat in the United States alongside her husband, Waymond. 

Yeoh gave an inspiring speech to commemorate her win.

“Ladies, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are past your prime…for all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” Yeoh said.

Ke Huy Quan took home best supporting actor for his performance as Waymond.

Quan rose to fame as a child in roles like Short Round in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and Data in “The Goonies.” According to an interview with Variety, the work available to him after his childhood was limited, making “Everything Everywhere All at Once” his comeback to acting.

During his acceptance speech, Quan spoke on the experience of being a racial minority in Hollywood.

“My journey started on a boat…I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage,” Quan said. “They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American Dream.”

History continued to be made after Ruth E. Carter became the first Black woman to win two Academy Awards, according to CBS. Carter took home the award for best costume design for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” She previously won the award for her work on “Black Panther” in 2019. 

“Thank you to the Academy for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman. She endures. She loves. She overcomes. She is every woman in this film. She is my mother,” Carter said, dedicating the award to her mother, who died earlier that week, according to CBS.

Asian voices were again uplifted with the win for best music for “Naatu Naatu,” an original song from the Indian action epic “RRR.” According to The New York Times, the tune is the first Indian-produced song to even receive a nomination in the category, let alone win.

The live performance of the song drew criticisms from audiences at home, however. According to Variety, many expressed disappointment that there were no South Asian dancers in the number’s ensemble. Additionally, social media users were upset that the piece was choreographed by Napoleon and Tabita D’umo, neither of whom are Indian.

Despite the controversy, the Oscars did not release a statement about the issue.

According to BBC, the Academy Awards are rooted in systematic racism, with this year’s nomination snubs against Black actresses like Danielle Deadwyler and Viola Davis continuing conversations regarding the Oscars and race.

While the awards have yet to shake their reputation, the rallying behind actors of color like Quan, Yeoh, and best supporting actress nominee Angela Bassett shows that audience support is with progression, hopefully marking more inclusivity in film.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo caption: Best actress winner Michelle Yeoh rose to fame in America in the 1997 James Bond film, “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

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